1. Educate yourself about foster parenting
Foster parents care for children temporarily until a court decides that they can return home safely or that they should be placed with relatives, legal guardians or adoptive parents. Typically, agencies first try to place the child with family members, family friends or neighbors, which is called kinship care. If kinship care is not an option, the agency will then place the child in a licensed foster home. Throughout the child’s time in foster care, the agency will continue to seek out and assess the ability of family members and friends to care for the child.
Foster parents provide a safe and encouraging environment for children while remaining very active and involved in the child’s case. The end goal for foster care is reunification with the birth family. Reunification of children and their families typically happens within a year, but sometimes it takes longer. Over time, many foster families develop supportive relationships with birth parents and continue to support them after the child has returned home and the agency has closed the child’s case.
2. Choose an agency
In Ohio, foster parents can choose which agency is best for their family so it’s important to do your research. Once you’ve decided, complete the inquiry form. Once the agency receives the form, it will reach out to you to start the process to become a foster parent.
3. Attend the required preplacement training
Pre-placement training is required for anyone who wishes to become a foster parent. The training includes 36 hours of coursework, which covers basic knowledge about foster care, as well as agency policies.
For more information about training sessions, please visit the Ohio Child Welfare Training Program website.
4. Fill out an application
Each agency manages the application process differently. Some will want you to apply prior to training, some during training, and some after training. The application starts the official process to become a foster parent and requests basic demographic information, as well as historical data.
5. Complete a homestudy
A homestudy is required as part of the licensing process. The basic elements include home visits, medical statements, financial statements, background checks, references, safety audits and fire inspections. You’ll have to gather a lot of information, and it could take several months. Please be patient and flexible during the process.
6. Wait for a child to be placed
Once the homestudy is complete and you’re officially a foster parent, you may be contacted regarding children who need to be placed. During this process, the agency will provide you with detailed information about the child including their characteristics, any specific medical, educational, or treatment needs, and the child’s history of abuse or neglect.
7. Welcome your first child
Once all details have been discussed and everyone feels your family is able to care for a child, a child will be placed with your family. During the initial adjustment period, the child’s social worker will help your family through home visits, phone calls, counseling and additional resources.
8. Participate in meetings and home visits
Ongoing home visits by both your agency and the county with custody of the child will continue throughout the child’s stay in your home. Caseworkers will visit your home at least once a month. You will be responsible for staying involved in your child’s case and providing any care that is needed for the child. You will be invited to agency meetings to share the child’s progress, and you will be given notice of court dates.
9. Complete Ongoing Training
Once you become a certified foster parent, your certification will last for two years. During that time, you will be required to complete at least 40 hours of ongoing training. If you’re caring for children receiving specialized treatment, you must complete 60 hours of training.